September 21, 2014 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23) St. Paul expresses the hope that we all must feel at times. When the burdens of life become great, we fall back on the hope in Christ, which is indeed our greatest hope and promise. Our readings for this Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, indeed our readings every Sunday, relate directly to the hope we have in Christ. Life is an ongoing challenge, whether it is through our own lives or whether through the lives of those to whom we are close.
Our Old Testament reading, our first reading, is from that remarkable Book of Isaiah. Isaiah, although writing almost three thousand years ago, manages to capture many of our feelings and experiences in today’s world. God says, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” A stewardship way of life is God-centered, but we must have an understanding that God is operating in a different way and on a different plateau than we are. The gulf between us and God is great, but yet He is there, a part of our lives every moment of every day. It was through Jesus Christ that Heaven came to earth, and our task is to embrace that, appreciate it, and live it.
St. Paul had an extraordinary trust in God. It was that trust he wished to communicate to the Philippians and to us. That trust is at the core of lives of stewardship. Paul spent a lot of time traveling on ships. His expression “I long to depart,” when viewed in the original Greek, is paralleled by ship’s captains who became anxious to begin their journey, to depart the port and get moving. Imagine a captain in a foreign port; he wants to set sail and head toward home, toward his family and the comfort that brings. That is the same thing Paul is saying. His home is with God in Heaven. He is anxious to get there, but at the same time he recognizes that he has responsibilities and things to do here on earth, now. No matter how we look at it, our work may not be done either. God has called us to use our special gifts to thank Him and to build His Kingdom. Our goal should be to do that; not next week, not next month, but now.
Finally, in today’s readings we come to Jesus teaching us about the ways of God through the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. The Lord speaks of our reward, but He also reminds us, as does Isaiah, that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus told this parable in response to a question from St. Peter. The Apostles had given up much to be with Jesus. They had sacrificed lives and families and futures on earth to follow the Lord. Peter merely asked “What do we get out of it?” Jesus’ response through this parable tells Peter and the other Apostles that they will be rewarded, but that God’s methods, God’s rewards, cannot be compared to what people expect, to our perception of what is the way to do things.
We can understand the law — that is, you get what you deserve. We have a problem understanding grace — that is, God loves all and He loves them on His time and in His perspective of time. God will embrace and love all, but He may not do it according to our understanding or our standards. God is fair to us and to others, but truly the last may be first, and the first may be last.